DFA Members, Employees Give Back in New Orleans

September 24, 2010

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Immediately following Hurricane Katrina, an outpouring of support helped the New Orleans community begin its road to recovery. Five years later, redevelopment efforts continue but there is still much work to be done, particularly in the hard-hit Ninth Ward.

On September 23, members, management and staff of Dairy Farmers of America, Inc. (DFA), a national milk marketing cooperative, took a break from an annual training conference to help launch the development of two community gardens in the Ninth Ward of New Orleans.

The activity was coordinated and managed by HandsOn New Orleans through a partnership with NOLA Green Roots, a greenspace development organization.

“With the help of 250 volunteers, we were able to transform two lots into community gardens in the matter of a few hours,” said Kertrina Watson Lewis, executive director for HandsOn New Orleans.

DFA farmer leaders and employees began transforming two vacant lots into vibrant, beautiful community gardens that will supply Ninth Ward residents with a variety of fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables, as well as a positive social hub.

In addition, the Cooperative introduced a fundraising initiative among employees at the conference. As a result, DFA presented a check for $5,000 to NOLA Green Roots to help fund additional development at the Ninth Ward Community Gardens.

“To see the smiling faces of the neighbors in the Ninth Ward as the garden was being constructed was just overwhelming,” Joe Brock, executive director of NOLA Green Roots. “What we did today brought back their belief in the American spirit and restored not only the land but also their hope. And it created an opportunity for fresh fruits and vegetables that will bring rewards for years to come.”

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, DFA Cares was established to assist dairy farmer members and others in the Gulf Coast agriculture community. Now, the DFA Cares Foundation has expanded to include the DFA Cares Hotline, DFA’s Member Assistance Program and the DFA Scholarship Program.

“Through the Foundation, members and staff are empowered to fulfill one of the Cooperative’s core values — community,” said Mickey Childers, dairy farmer and chairman of DFA’s Southeast Area.

DFA is a dairy marketing cooperative that serves and is owned by nearly 17,000 members on more than 9,500 farms in 48 states. DFA also is one of the country’s most diversified manufacturers of dairy products, food components and ingredients, and is a leader in formulating and packaging shelf-stable dairy products.

HandsOn New Orleans, a HandsOn Network affiliate and volunteer center for the Greater New Orleans area, transforms communities through volunteer service and leadership development. Through its Hands@Work program, HandsOn New Orleans helps companies engage their employees by assisting in the design, development and management of small or large-scale employee engagement projects.

Recognizing the potential for greenspace development in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, NOLA Green Roots was started by Joe Brock in 2008. The goal of NOLA Green Roots is to convert blighted and abandoned lots throughout the city of New Orleans into vibrant community gardens that create social hubs and provide access to naturally grown vegetables, herbs and fresh eggs.